Whisenhunt has questions, Leinart wants answers

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Matt Leinart was a fairly decent college quarterback but evidently he should've paid more attention in science class.

Turns out chemistry could be the decisive factor in whether he remains the Arizona Cardinals' quarterback of the future. And, right now, that future is looking dim.

"It's not as much about stats as it is about chemistry with the team. In that position it's about how you handle everything that's thrown at you," Cardinals' coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters, but declining to say if Leinart or former Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson would be his starter in the season opener.

Both played well in a win over the Bears. Both have up and down sides in their career resumes. Leinart is an efficient, accurate passer who has completed 82% of his passes in the pre-season.

The fifth-year Cardinal aired his thoughts in an article posted Monday on the Cardinals website.

"I have outplayed the competition (in) training camp and pre-season. I think my play speaks about that. For me I just have to move forward every day. I can't worry about what I can't control. ... I really want an explanation and I haven't been given one."

But the Cardinals have never fully committed to making Leinart their No. 1 quarterback.

After making him their top draft pick they instead gave the job to Kurt Warner. When he retired, the Cardinals spent the off-season looking for other options at quarterback. They tried to trade for San Diego's Charlie Whitehurst. Some inside the organization felt the team should have made a stronger push to sign former Rams' starter Marc Bulger. Finally they decided Leinart would move from understudy to starter.

But then Whisenhunt brought in Anderson as a free agent. After Leinart's two mediocre starts in preseason, Whisenhunt said last week Anderson would share snaps with the No. 1 offence.

Whisenhunt may be acting coy as to his starter but he's playing a dangerous game. If Leinart is going to start in two weeks, why bring Anderson into the mix in the first place? Why start a quarterback controversy if the intention is to stick with Leinart? If Whisenhunt believed the players had trust in Leinart, why bench him even before he has a chance to start a regular-season game?

The knock on Leinart is that he is too skittish, checks off his intended receivers too easily and that the completion rate is only a reflection of a failure to throw downfield. But he is young, he's worked hard in the off-season and there are signs he is maturing.

Anderson is tough and fearless. But he can also be wildly erratic. He has a howitzer of an arm with which coaches can fall in love and he's a former Pro Bowler. But last year in Cleveland he couldn't find a receiver if they'd given him a GPS.

But evidently with Whisenhunt it isn't about that anymore. It's about chemistry, about what a quarterback brings into the huddle and how his team-mates feel about him and his ability to lead. "I feel like I have a great relationship with my guys, my team," Leinart told the Arizona Republic. "I feel like I am doing a good job in that department."

But if Whisenhunt was convinced of that, he has never backed it up with a public endorsement. If Whisenhunt isn't buying into Leinart, how can the players? There is an interesting corollary in Toronto where Argos head coach Jim Barker decided early that he would give the starter's job to Cleo Lemon. It hasn't always been a stunning success but Barker never wavered and it brought a sense of resolute calm.

In contrast, Whisenhunt has a muddle. If Leinart starts now, every misstep will result in fans, media (and his teammates) wondering if Whisenhunt is going to change his mind again. If he doesn't start Leinart there's no way he can go back to being a backup again and maintain either his confidence or the respect of his teammates.

Either way, it's losing proposition.

OH, GOOD GRIEF!

Nobody can match the Panthers' offence for ineptitude.

The Carolina offence has started 42 offensive possessions during the pre-season and they have yet to score a touchdown.

That's Charlie Brown territory. DeAngelo Williams, behind the first-string offensive line, picked up only 13 yards on nine carries in the last game. Panthers quarterbacks led (and we use that word with reservation) by Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen have a 51.1 rating.

Two of their big playmakers, Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart, haven't played a down but that just shows this team has all the depth of a Paris Hilton intellect.

QUICK HITS

C.J. Spiller, the Bills' first-round draft pick keeps breathing life into what's been a popgun attack that's finished 25th or worse in the NFL in yards gained in each of the past seven years. Spiller has three TDs in two preseason games and has helped the Bills score 59 points in wins over Indianapolis and the Bengals ... Just two weeks to the first game and the Jets are missing two key parts to a defence it hoped would take them to the Super Bowl. Darrelle Revis remains unsigned and now outside linebacker Calvin Pace could be out for up to six weeks with a broken bone in his foot. Jason Taylor replaces Pace although the Jets are talking to free agent Adalius Thomas ... Rookie Maurice Pouncey seems to have ousted incumbent Justin Hartwig in Pittsburgh ... Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL have signed former NFL running back and noted jailbird Maurice Clarett ... Raiders' QB Jason Campbell injured his wrist and will have an MRI and is questionable for the season opener. If Campbell can't play, Bruce Gradkowski will get the call ... Arizona acquired Charles Scott from the Eagles to replace Nehemiah Broughton (ligament injury) for a lead blocking role.

BILL.LANKHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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